Sandrine Tonini – UCAS Teacher Training

Sandrine Tonini teaches French to S1-S4 (aged 11-15) in a comprehensive school in Orkney. She is a newly qualified teacher (NQT) in her induction year.

What route did you choose to qualify and why?

I had previously studied for an MA followed by a PhD in French and Italian and had also done some private language teaching from home. I wanted to take this further and make teaching my career, so I decided to do a PGDE (Secondary) at Moray House School of Education at the University of Edinburgh and qualified in teaching both French and Italian.  

Why secondary teaching?

I love working with teenagers and enjoy trying to steer them in the right direction at a crucial stage of their lives. I also have a passion for languages. Where I did my training at Moray House School of Education the ethos was to teach the child first and the subject after – an approach I fully embrace.

What does your job involve?

I teach French to each of four age ranges, from S1-S4 (11-15 year olds), record each child’s progress and write assessments. The role is much more than teaching – work doesn’t stop when you step out of the classroom. It is a holistic profession which means being there for the pupils whenever they need help and support.

As I am in my induction year I have a 0.8 teaching timetable. When I am not in the classroom I attend local authority and school-based continuous professional development (CPD) sessions and have time for personal reflection and development. I receive mentoring and help from an experienced teacher ‘supporter’. When you complete your PGDE you are provisionally registered with the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS) and in your induction year you work to achieve the standard for full registration. In order to fully qualify I will need to complete a profile with reports of the CPD I have received and have nine lessons observed throughout the year.

I do not have a tutor group but I am expected to assist with extra-curricular activities. I sit on three school working groups, Health and well-being, IT and Literacy.

What hours do you work?

I arrive at school at 8.15am and leave at 5pm and try not to take any work home during the week unless I have assessments to write. At the weekend I usually do preparation work on the Saturday.

What skills or qualities do you think teachers need?

I think you need to be a positive person, dedicated to your job and have resilience. It is demanding but the rewards in terms of seeing pupils develop far outweigh the hard work.

How did you get your first job?

In Scotland if you successfully complete a PGDE you are guaranteed a teaching post with a Scottish local authority for your induction year. During my course I was asked to choose five authorities in order of preference and these were matched to vacancies. My decision was to move from Edinburgh to a rural area in the north of Scotland and I was successful with my second choice, Orkney.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I love seeing teenagers grow and develop, particularly those who are initially difficult to connect with.

What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?

It is an intense job and you have to be dedicated and work hard but the PGDE prepares you well for what to expect. Establishing professional working relationships with colleagues in a new school can be just as challenging as classroom teaching

Where do you see yourself in the future?

At some point in the future I would like to teach Italian but this isn’t offered in many schools in Scotland. In order to complete my induction period for teaching Italian I would need to work in a school that offers enough hours in order to have this signed off, so in the summer I am hoping to teach Italian in a school in Edinburgh.

What are your tips for readers considering teaching as a career?

Think hard about it but if you want to teach don’t let your family circumstances stop you. I am a single parent with an 11 year old child and I was able to balance family commitments with study with excellent support from my PGDE course. If you explain your situation and the difficulties you may face – support can be available. For example, to enable to me to balance childcare with attending one of my teaching placements, a taxi was arranged to get me there in the mornings. I also successfully moved house from Edinburgh to Orkney.

If you want to do it – go for it, the rewards are great.

Feeling inspired?

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